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In 1995, a self-help book entitled The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right hit the market. The book promoted more than 30 rules women should follow in order to attract the men of their dreams. This advice was controversial at the time, sparking many debates about gender roles and courtship patterns. Nearly 25 years later, the book continues to be read by women around the globe.
The world, and our approach to dating, has changed significantly over the past two decades. Do “The Rules” work, or are they a sexist and antiquated approach to dating? Here’s a brief look at “The Rules” and how they hold up today.
What are “The Rules” About?
“The Rules” are essentially a traditional approach to dating. Rather than actively pursuing men, women should act in ways that entice men to court them. Some women find these guidelines to be outdated and anti-feminist; other women have argued that following “The Rules” made them feel empowered, allowing them to better control the outcomes in their romantic lives.
It is often argued that “The Rules” work because they follow the natural pattern of male-female dynamics. Biologically, men are driven to hunt and pursue. Women, by taking a more deliberate and controlled approach to dating, may inspire suitors to pursue them and treat them with more respect. By slowing down the courtship process, both partners may also have more time to determine whether or not they are, indeed, well-suited for one another.
On the other hand, “The Rules” certainly promote traditional roles in dating and relationships. Women are told that they shouldn’t talk to men first, approach them to dance, call them too often, or move too quickly while dating. Women are told that they should be mysterious, and should stop dating men if they don’t purchase thoughtful birthday gifts for them. To many, these guidelines seem stifling and sexist.
“The Rules” Today
The two authors of The Rules, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, admit that they aren’t professionals. The two women simply argue that following these guidelines worked for them, and that these tips have worked for others, too.
Today, technology has completely transformed the world of dating. Schneider and Fein have therefore updated and adapted “The Rules” for the modern day. Women, they argue, are overusing technology in ways that may be detrimental to their romantic lives. Texting men back too quickly and too frequently may make them appear over-interested. Posting too often on social media may also make them appear too readily available, eliminating mystique from budding relationships. The authors argue, for instance, that one should have a “blackout period” from social media each weekend, not posting or messaging others between Friday night and Sunday evening. Though many of us may gawk at such guidelines, we should also remember that just decades ago, all of us were in touch with one another less frequently. Sometimes, less really can be more!
Whether “The Rules” are wise or simply sexist is difficult to say. For instance, not getting wasted and refusing to answer text messages after midnight may be good ways for women to protect their health and set reasonable social boundaries in an age of constant communication. On the other hand, limiting how much you speak while getting to know someone, or refusing a date simply for the sake of playing hard-to-get, may make many women feel rightfully stifled or suppressed.
Establishing boundaries and demanding self-respect is certainly a part of “The Rules.” Schneider and Fein argue, however, that if you “want more from a guy, you need to give less.” For many women, talking less and texting infrequently, however, may simply be contrary to their nature. Some men, too, may be hurt and frustrated by these games. Should we even follow “The Rules?”
Should I Follow “The Rules” or Date a “Rules Girl?”
Though “The Rules” may sound frustrating in theory, many have found that playing along with these cultural and biological guidelines actually works for them. One journalist, reflecting on “The Rules” in 2019, compared the relationship dynamics promoted by “The Rules” to those of hunters and their prey. No hunter wants to believe that his prey wants to be caught; the natural hunter-prey dynamic is arguably what works best in the dating world. Women should allow men to chase and catch them, rather than making it appear that they want to be caught.
The biggest critique of “The Rules,” perhaps, is that they involve playing too many games. Being inauthentic and manipulative isn’t what will lead to trusting, happy, and long-lasting relationships. True “Rules Girls” argue that these guidelines need to be followed even when married. Keeping up a constant facade, however, is exhausting. Dating shouldn’t be reduced to tactical game-play; genuine love and connection need to be able to grow and flourish, too.
Whether “The Rules” are an effective dating technique remains a debatable subject today. Women who feel that they become too quickly involved with others may find it liberating to use this framework as a way to attract potential mates. Other women, who enjoy being more proactive and vocal in their relationships, may find these guidelines to be frustrating and utterly unnecessary. Likewise, some men may truly enjoy “the chase,” whereas others may find themselves hurt and annoyed by having their conversations ignored and date requests blown off.
Women who feel that their current dating dynamic isn’t working may want to read The Rules and follow some of the authors’ advice. Those who feel comfortable in the way their dating life is going, however, can probably ignore these guidelines. Simply put, those who feel empowered by “The Rules” should consider following them; those who find them stifling should have no regrets in creating “rules” of their own!Do “The Rules” still hold up in the modern age? The only way to know is to try them out for yourself. If they don’t, abandon them, and find a dating technique that works for you!
Photo: © Adobe Stock / Christina Conti